Penn State is unlike any other university in our country. It was essentially built by one man.
No other college in America can point to one figure and attribute the majority of its academic and athletic prestige to one person. Penn State can do that with Joe Paterno.
Everything that we know about Penn State can be attributed to Paterno. He had been there for over half a century. He essentially was Penn State.
Think about it. Even if someone is considering attending Penn State for one of its prestigious academic programs and not athletics,they're doing so because of the success of the football team. Libraries, labs and advertising all funded by the Penn State football brand that Joe Paterno created. Not even Notre Dame can attribute the bulk of its reputation and resources to one man.
So we have a college and athletic program that is what it is because of its football team. We have a football team that is what it is because of Joe Paterno. Joe Paterno is who he is because of his reputation for doing things the right way for so long. Or so we thought.
Growing up the son of a football coach in Upstate New York, I was raised on Penn State football. They were everything you were supposed to be as a player and a team. Three yards and a cloud of dust. Plain uniforms, nothing fancy. Blue collar. No end-zone dances.
They were the white helmets. They were the good guys. They were Linebacker U.
And there is the problem.
Linebacker U. That's what the football team is known as by its peers. Players like Jack Ham, Greg Buttle, LaVar Arrington, Shane Conlan and Paul Posluszny helped build that reputation.
For the better part of three decades, it was Jerry Sandusky who built and ran Linebacker U. Sandusky served as linebacker coach from 1970 to 1977. He was then defensive coordinator until he retired in 1999.
Much of Penn State's success could be traced largely to its defense.
So now we see, much of Paterno's success was because of Jerry Sandusky.
That hits college football fans like an old-school football head-slap.
The court of public opinion has already reached a verdict in regard to Penn State. Guilty. The sentence: life in exile.
Every American age 10 or older will, for the rest of their lives, see a Penn State hat, sweatshirt or diploma and immediately think of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
Every parent who lets any recruiter for any sport from Penn State into their living room will immediately think about Sandusky.
Every high school kid who opens a letter or a piece of marketing material from Penn State will think about Sandusky.
That cannot be undone.
Student-athletes who grew up wanting to attend the university that Joe Paterno made so iconic will transfer.
Penn State's championship volleyball and wrestling programs will fall victim to the reputation and wrongdoings of the administration and Paterno's regime, some of whom will likely serve jail time. Recruiting will never be the same.
For at least two generations, Penn State will never be the same. Regardless of coaching hires or booster donations, the country has spoken. Penn State will no longer be anyone's top choice for academics or athletics.
A university that defined a town, a state, a region and a moral compass has already been decimated by the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
The example has been made. The NCAA need not get involved.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!